People - May 2006

Wachovia CFO's job is a Wurtz case scenario
By Chris Richter

Tom Wurtz insists he’s “not a terribly exciting person.” He’s a number cruncher and since February has been Charlotte-based Wachovia Corp.’s chief financial officer, in charge of budgeting, financial reporting, treasury management, taxation and other brain-busting duties at the nation’s fourth-largest bank.

Wachovia promoted him from treasurer to replace Bob Kelly, who resigned to become CEO of Pittsburgh-based Mellon Financial. Banking analyst Nancy Bush of Aiken, S.C.-based NAB Research LLC says Wurtz is “scary smart.”

Smart enough to know he had made a mistake on his first career choice — and the second. “Like George Costanza, I always thought it would be fun to say I was an architect.” Unlike the Seinfeld character, Wurtz, 44, actually studied to be one — for a year at Kent State University before transferring to West Virginia University to study petroleum engineering. “About halfway through the program, I realized that oil tends to accumulate in some unattractive places.” He earned a bachelor’s in engineering there in 1984 and an MBA from Arizona State University in 1986.

He worked for the California legislature as a consultant for a state agency similar to the federal Government Accountability Office. Part of his job was researching ways to coordinate federal and state medical-insurance programs. In the late ’80s, fascinated by the savings-and-loan crisis, he went to work for the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision in Thousand Oaks, Calif. After three years, he moved to California Federal Bank as vice president of asset-liability management, helping the bank restructure.

California Federal teamed up with a small software company to develop software that forecast how changes in interest rates would affect an institution’s earnings. He became an expert on the software and in 1992 joined Berkeley, Calif.-based Risk Management Technologies as a senior consultant.

Two years later, Wurtz, who didn’t want to raise a family in California or cold weather, moved to Charlotte to focus on East Coast clients, which included Wachovia and First Union. Later, he joined First Union as director of corporate forecasting. By 2001, when First Union bought Wachovia and took its name, he was treasurer.

His aversion to cold weather comes from a childhood spent in Allegany, N.Y., about 60 miles south of Buffalo. “It was a wonderful place to grow up. And if you like recessions and cold weather, then it’s a great place to stay.”

He prefers Mooresville, living on Lake Norman. He takes daily walks with his wife, Nanci, and their four teenagers. Not terribly exciting? “I like my life, but I’m not sure other people want to live vicariously through it.”